Outlander – Season 4 Episode 3
“The False Bride”
Outlander tells a tale of love, commitment and partnership focused on two different couples separated by centuries.
Brianna and Roger are always a welcome addition to an episode as they offer some respite from the ongoing Claire and Jamie drama. Not that Claire and Jamie aren’t compelling to watch but the intensity of their relationship is a lot to take over a long period of time. Their intensity is replaced with an alternate flavour from Roger and Brianna who have a different yet almost equally compelling connection.
The easiest way to describe their relationship is “modern” even though their part of the story takes place in the 1970s. I use that word because there’s an intangible quality to it that contrasts more free thinking ideals with an old fashioned outlook. Roger, the Historian is the old fashioned one who believes in the sanctity of tradition and hold his values in high regard where Brianna is still unsure what her value are so seems to take life more or less as it comes.
At first this isn’t a problem as they two of them bask in the honeymoon glow of a reunion after so much time apart. They attend a Scottish festival in America, enjoy the imported traditions and generally take comfort in the company of the other. Brianna in particular seems to relish getting closer to her Scottish roots that have only recently become known to her where Roger experiences a little slice of home in a far away land. The most striking thing about the early part of their time together is how natural it feels. Previous appearances by these characters haven’t done much to suggest an attraction between them other than what the episodes themselves were hinting at. In terms of the performances of the actors it always felt as if Brianna was keeping Roger at a distance while he pined after her. There’s a major difference here as there’s a flirtatious quality to their interactions that makes both characters a lot of fun to watch as they feel like people who know each other well and are comfortable in each other’s presence.
This is why the failed intimate moment both works and doesn’t. Brianna makes a move on Roger wanting to have sex with him but Roger stops it from happening because he wants the moment to be perfect. He gives her a bracelet, confesses his love for her and proposes to her. Brianna declines because she’s not ready and Roger withholds sex because he doesn’t want to sleep with her if she doesn’t want to be his wife. On the surface this seems bizarre as these are people who haven’t seen each other in a long time and communicated slowly via the written word as well as a slow international postal service. Absence does make the heart grow fonder but there’s no real baseline for this relationship making it believable that marriage is the next logical step for them.
Brianna is understandably confused by this and makes her feelings on the matter clear which upsets Roger who sees her turning down his proposal as a complete rejection. Confusion quickly turns to anger and the seemingly perfect moment becomes entirely the opposite with Brianna holding steady on her refusal of the proposal while Roger becomes increasingly irate because he seemed to think their engagement was a foregone conclusion. It’s a conversation that quickly deteriorates due to the intensity of their feelings and the volume of alcohol recently consumed. Neither of them is entirely able to get across how they actually feel though Brianna is easily the most reasonable in this situation. She makes it clear that she is turning down his proposal not rejecting him and makes her desire to sleep with him very clear. Brianna has resolved to let Roger take her virginity and is confused as to why he would want to be engaged before sleeping with her given that he has been with other girls. There are religious undertones on Rogers side as he uses Catholicism to fuel certain assumptions.
Roger assumes Brianna is “a nice Catholic” girl which suggests that he didn’t think she was the type to have sex before at least being engaged. It’s unclear what gave him that idea but part of the point of this scene is that Roger is misguided about their entire relationship. I have a lot of time for this conversation as the entire point of it fades away very quickly as the lack of understanding intensifies. At this point there’s no way for them to see eye to eye and this makes the whole thing feel more real. This is likely the first honest conversation they’ve had about their relationship and where they go from here will largely depend on how they both feel when the dust settles.
The beginnings of this can be seen when they talk the next day. Brianna’s mind hasn’t changed because she’s not sure she believes in marriage but that doesn’t make her feelings for Roger any less valid. She even points out that it isn’t out of the question though she will need time to assess her life and figure out what she wants from it. Roger isn’t prepared to her that at this point which means they have very little to discuss for now as the conversation will only go in circles if they don’t take time to consider what it is they want to say next. It’s emotionally charged, heartbreaking and feels very real if a little melodramatic. This episode solidified their story as one I would like to see told.
Claire and Jamie are also considering the next step in their life together centuries in the past. Cutting back and forth between the two time periods with the heavy suggestion that mother/father and daughter travel the same path is wonderfully poetic in connecting them on a physical as well as a thematic level. The transitions are seamless and always offer a change of pace from each of the stories at the right moment. Leaving River Run left thoughts swirling around in Claire’s head as Jocasta plants a seed of doubt in Claire’s head. She suggested that Claire might be holding Jamie back from the life he deserves. As far as Jocasta is concerned her nephew deserves the life of a nobleman with all the privilege that brings and she sees Claire as holding him back from achieving that because she projects her values onto him and makes her live the life that she wants. Claire doesn’t stand for this and points out that Jocasta has no idea who she or Jamie is with her only experience of her nephew being when he was a small boy. It definitely strikes a nerve and the two of them leave on fairly bad terms but it doesn’t prevent what was said from rattling around in Claire’s head.
She follows up on this by asking Jamie what he wants out of life. He admits that his life is a different one when Claire is in it but he’s fine with that because change is necessary when it comes to entering into a partnership. Whenever Jamie is alone he lives as an outlaw as we saw before he met Claire and after she left him. Now that she’s with him again he seems content to live a more modest and honest life because he feels the need to settle down. Jamie reminds us that he’s supposed to be in his 40s and that a man should be settling down by that age. Nothing about what he says seems regretful in any way which is reassuring for Claire who can rest easy knowing that Jamie finds his life with her fulfilling. As with the Roger and Brianna relationship this helps their connection feel real because their relationship isn’t constant romance or constant drama. It changes, evolves, has its share of ups as well as downs and both parties have a vested interest in making sure what they have together continues to work because they rely on one another for survival.
Part of what makes their connection more compelling and real is that there are extended quieter moments where they simply talk to each other. In this case Claire tells Jamie about Brianna and the choices that she made in her life. It offers another connection to Brianna’s journey running in parallel hundreds of years later while offering Jamie some form of connection the daughter he never knew. Claire doesn’t sugarcoat the stories either despite how difficult it will be for Jamie to hear about his daughter regarding another man as her father and forming a strong bond. He takes it in his stride, apparently happy just to hear about Brianna and grateful that she had a father figure in his absence. The subtext of this scene is that Brianna’s closeness with a man who wasn’t her biological father and apparent distance from Claire who she didn’t connect with as deeply is partly responsible for her lack of certainty at the point her story takes place.
Claire and Jamie’s unbreakable partnership is reinforced when they’re separated by a storm. Claire and Jamie being driven apart by circumstances before finding each other one again has become a trope by this point and making use of it again does feel a bit forced as a way to move the narrative forwards. The fact that she physically finds her way back to him reinforces the emotional connection that draws them together. Even when they’re apart and one of them is in danger it feels like only a matter of time before they’re together once again.
The establishing of Fraser’s Ridge as a home for both of them is a wonderfully romantic moment that shows the genuine desire to settle. Jamie has fallen completely in love with America and has resolved to make it his home. He looks out onto the beautiful vista and makes plans for the land that feel permanent. As far as he’s concerned a quiet life is their future though I’m guessing the show won’t allow that to happen.
There’s some room for mythology in this episode namely around the skull that Claire discovers. Her reaction to it is similar to the reaction she has to the bones she would eventually learn belonged to Geillis though this is much more intense. Her vision of the man approaching her in the storm disappearing between lightning strikes is haunting and beautifully staged to evoke a sense of mystery. She concludes from this and evidence of dental work that could only have happened in the future leads her to conclude that the man who once owned the skull travelled back in time just as she did. This and her reaction to Geillis’ bones suggests that there is a connection between time travellers that can’t be easily explained. I really like this hint at something larger going on beneath the surface as it serves as a reminder of how readily Outlander transcends genre plus this instance sets up a mystery that will clearly play out over the coming episodes.
An excellent episode that tells two compelling emotional stories across two different time periods. Brianna and Roger’s return is certainly welcomed as it delivers a break from the intensity of the Claire and Jamie connection. Their relationship is very different and has clearly evolved since their last appearance. Early on they are comfortable in the company of the other as they enjoy the Scottish festival and there’s a real spark between them. Later when Brianna makes a move on him he ruins the moment by gifting her with a bracelet and proposing. This shows that they are in vastly different places in terms of how they see their relationship. Roger sees it as a complete rejection though Brianna just isn’t ready to be engaged no matter how much she cares about him. The discussion escalates to the point that neither side are sure what it’s about which only adds to its realism and the fact that alcohol is involved only helps to justify it. Their follow-up conversation the next day is just as real because it doesn’t act as a reconciliation as they both need time to figure out what the next step is.
Claire and Jamie are following what appears to be the same geographic path in a different time period which offers a personal and thematic connection between the two couples. They are also discussing their future after Claire has the idea that she might be holding Jamie back in some way planted in her head by Jocasta. Jamie is clearly content in his life and eager to settle down now that Claire is back in it. Living as an outlaw is something he has done on a few occasions but now he desires a more quiet existence. The establishment of Fraser’s Ridge is proof of that though it’s obvious that this quiet period won’t last for very long. The focus on mythology when Claire and Jamie were separated was a nice touch with the haunting image of the man who previously owned the skull that Claire finds disappearing in the darkness between lightning strikes really standing out. The reinforcing of the idea that time travellers have some sort of a connection is intriguing and the whole thing sets up an effective mystery that will clearly play out over the coming episodes.
- seamless transitions between the two time periods
- taking time to show how natural the interactions between Brianna and Roger are
- the misunderstanding between Brianna and Roger escalating in a way that feels real
- not resolving their dispute in the space of an episode
- Jamie and Claire discussing their future after Claire worries she is holding him back
- further reinforcement of how rich and real the Jamie/Claire relationship is
- the haunting image of the man disappearing in the darkness between lightning strikes
- the forced separation of Claire and Jamie for plot reasons
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